Meditations on Beauty: How To See Both

By Shini Wang


The world is a mirror

As I painted my lips

The world was painted


The world is a basin

As I washed my face

The world was washed


The world looked at me

And as it did, I had never been myself

Never having begun

Never being finished


The world is spoken in my voice

Sight are clouds passing through the horizon of my eyes

Sound are winds brushing through the caves of my ears

Thoughts color within the frame of a picture 

Within me, the senses are material, immaterial


I wonder...

To ensnare beauty is the condemnation of ugliness

To love beauty is the prison of the material

To desire beauty is suffering

Do not run from beauty

And knock on emptiness’s door

Do not run from emptiness 

And fixate on form


The eye for the invisible blinks until it lives wide open

It sees both

We wake from a dream

in a river that is never the same place


You find yourself 

drifting in the ineffable

In the space, between the object and observer

Measuring tape in one hand

Consciousness in the other


When I first looked at this stunning Imperial Buddhist painting from the Qing Dynasty, I was immediately struck by the spiritual implications of this work. Buddhism can be discussed with ethics, the environment, gender, and even physics, but what about beauty? In Buddhist scripture, enlightenment is found through divorcing consciousness from our senses. Those who awaken, renounce the permanence of self and give up attachment to the senses. However, enlightenment always takes the middle path. It takes embracing and renouncing sensation. Through my research, I now believe that this paradox is where true beauty is experienced. 


The style of my poem is reminiscent of sutras and explores sensation, impermanence, and beauty. Feel free to read it out loud or in your head, visualizing the images. What will you discover in your meditation?

Tags: Poetry